Play and Your Tween

>> Monday, April 20, 2009

Last week for the Carnival of Play I wrote a series on Play from birth to 2 yrs. Today I thought I would swing the pendulum the opposite direction and talk about play during the tween years. I was going to include the teen years, but since I am not quite there yet I am probably not the best for giving out that dish of advice. I'm hoping that by the time we get there we will have laid enough ground work and spent enough time with our children that they will still enjoy hanging out with mom and dad on occasion.
I think that play during the tween years is probably just as important as play during infancy. Just for different reasons of course. This is a way for parents to connect with your tween, who is probably fumbling along trying to find their way to independence. Don't let this pulling away fool you into thinking that they don't want you involved anymore. Really deep down they do, you just have to find a way to make sure they know that your door is always open. That's where play can come in handy. During play you can communicate in ways that you wouldn't otherwise be able to get them to talk. It takes some of the pressure off them when you are both involved in an activity together. Something about being busy and not having to look at you while they speak, helps them open up a bit more about what is going on in their life, who they like, what problems they may be experiencing. Your role during this time is just to be there. Listen to your child. Provide guidance. Do your best to not get angry about what may come out during these conversations. You want your child to know that they can come to you about anything and you aren't going to blow up. That doesn't mean if there is behavior that is inappropriate to ignore it. Just provide some guidance at that point and later (at a separate time & when you are not about to blow) talk about discipline if there needs to be some.
Play at this stage in life can fall into many categories.

  • Sports - We try to enforce a rule with our tweens that they must participate in a sport, either at school or extracurricular. Also we don't let our kids quit. They have to stick with it until the end of the season. This teaches them to play as a team, teaches them about not quitting something even though you may not like it. And it also gives us a way to play with them. We can practice with them and gives us an opportunity to talk.
  • Cooking - If your child wants to learn how you make something, teach them. Both of my older kids still like to decorate cookies. Spend an afternoon baking, decorating and talking. Our newest thing is decorating cupcakes.
  • Arts and Crafts - My daughter loves to make cards and scrapbook with me. While we are working on creating something we have a chance to catch up on what's going on at school and with all her friends.
  • Fishing - This is something my husband and oldest son love to do. This gives them a way to connect. Something about men and fishing. My daughter also likes to try and fish (me- not so much) so this is a great way for daddy and daughter to get some one on one time together.
  • Hiking - This can be something as simple as a walk around the neighborhood. (Especially good at night, when it is dark. They seem to open up easier when you aren't lOOking at them.) Or if there is some place they have always wanted to visit, make an afternoon hike of it.
  • Cards - This is another fun activity. This can be done as a family or just one on one.

So find an activity that you and your tween have some interest in and find a way to connect to them. Lots of activities can be done together as a family. Try to find time for each child to get some alone time with a parent. It's much easier to talk when there isn't an audience, or the worry of a sibling embarrassing them later with information. Annie from PhD in Parenting wrote an article on the importance of one on one play. While it is geared for the younger child, many of the key points also apply for the tween.

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